Ann Arbor’s State Street Goes Curbless

At the helm of the street design is the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which decided to redesign the streetscape and intersections of State Street from William to just north of North University.

The street was under construction since spring 2022 and the DDA plans to begin a redesign strategy for more parts of the downtown area. 

According to Maura Thomson, interim executive director and communications manager of the DDA, State Street’s curbless design is part of the People-Friendly Street Initiative‘s second phase, which began in 2021. 

“The State Street project fell under our people-friendly streets, round two. We did a ton of public engagement, brought in our consultant team, and talked about areas in our downtown that they would like to see changed and made better,” Thomson said. “State Street rose to the top on that front. In some of the studies and work we did looking into this project, the pedestrian activity on that street far outweighs the vehicle activity. That design preceded this idea of providing that neighborhood with the ultimate flexibility curbside, which also increased the accessibility of the street. You have a street where if you have mobility issues or are in a wheelchair, you do not have to look for the ramp to get up on the sidewalk. You can enter at any location.”

The DDA began the People Friendly Street Initiative as a project to ensure an interactive and transparent design process. The project engaged in public engagement and communication outreach strategies for a two-phase plan. The first phase, which began in 2017, included projects in Kerrytown, the restoration of two-way traffic to First and Ashley Street, and a streetscape improvement project on Huron Street and Williams Street. 

The State Street redesign is part of the second phase, with more expected redesigns in the future. These city-wide improvements included the installation of protected bikeways and projects focused on making the city accessible for all people using all modes of transportation. 

Thomson said each of the DDA’s past, current and upcoming streetscape projects are created to prioritize their seven values: 

  • Keeping downtown streets safe and comfortable
  • Maintaining equitable access for all people
  • Creating an inclusive and affordable community
  • Crafting a resilient and energy responsible downtown area
  • Helping develop a vibrant and thriving local economy
  • Ensuring responsible designs and safe implementation
  • Making sure the community is connected with streets as civic space​

According to Thomson, each of the DDA’s projects are all in efforts to assist in Ann Arbor’s vision zero goals, which aim to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from traffic crashes on city streets by 2025, and the city’s A2Zero plan, which looks to achieve a transition to community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030.

“All of these projects are value-based,” Thomson said. “We have a host of values that within this infrastructure work, we are looking to meet as many of our city’s goals of vision zero and climate neutrality by 2030. We have set values that we are ensuring that we are meeting every project that we do.”

Ann Arbor is not the first city to incorporate the curbless design, with Kalamazoo and Chicago adopting the design years prior.

According to Thomson, the curbless design offers flexible curbside spaces that allow businesses to extend sidewalk areas, such as outdoor dining. 

Following the launch of the new curbless design, Thomson said the DDA’s next plan is a collaborative project between themselves, the city of Ann Arbor, and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, as they each look to make William Ave., Liberty Ave., and the Blake Transit Center, safer and more comfortable for people taking the bus.

“We are adding a midblock crosswalk,” Thomson said. “We are installing wider sidewalks and more transit shelters so that there will be more space for the buses to line up. We’re also doing utility work for the Housing Commission for their part Project at 350 S. Fifth Ave. This project is scheduled to begin construction in 2026.”

Regarding further city infrastructure, Thomson states that in the future, some additional areas could see significant changes in the downtown area, with the DDA conducting a circulation study this July to identify any potential changes they believe would improve Ann Arbor’s downtown area.  

“We are looking at the potential of restoration of two way traffic to fifth and division.” Thomson said. “We will look at furthering the connections of our protected bikeways, like areas towards the river into neighborhoods, and Theride’s 2045 long range plan. The fourth piece of the study will look at the potential of up to four of our downtown streets and the feasibility of them being either curbless or close. We are looking at the possibility but we have no plans right now.”

Fore more information on the DDA’s plans and future projects visit or click here to learn more about the People Friendly Street Initiative.

RELATED: A2ZERO Launches in Ann Arbor

RELATED: Ann Arbor Named a Gold-Level Biking City

Website | + posts

Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.

Antonio Cooper
Antonio Cooper
Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.

Recent Articles